Facebook, as they did with the German and the Spanish language, asked the Japanese Facebook users to translate its site into Japanese and gathered 1,375 volunteers (as of May 19) to contribute working on the translation. Today, after more than 30,000 translations have been submitted, Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, came to Japan and announced that they would launch the Japanese language version of Facebook.
Facebook has not been so popular among Japanese Internet users. One of the reasons would be the language barrier; Japanese people are notoriously poor at English. So, after breaking down this barrier with the translation work, will Facebook start to gain popularity in Japan as they did in Germany and Spain? I don’t think so, unless Facebook understands the peculiarities of the Japanese Internet culture.
Here are 3 things Facebook needs to do in order to succeed in Japan.
1. Go Mobile
Japanese mobile phones are one of the most advanced devices in the world with the PakeHou service (you can connect to the Internet as much as you like with the monthly fixed payment), high-quality photo function, fast Internet connection, DecoMe (decorated mail), and many other cool functions. Mixi, the No.1 SNS in Japan with more than 14 million users, gained around 40% of its revenue from the mobile version in the 1st quarter this year. There are many other popular mobile sites which we should pay attention to, but I will discuss them the other time.
2. Add Diary Function
It may sound odd, but Japanese people(especially young ones) REALLY like to write diaries. They want to share their daily lives with their friends through diaries, no matter how boring they may be, and many of their friends are kind enough to make comments on them. Plus, a diary can be so addictive. Many young people get so addicted that some of them check their comment updates every 10 minutes.
3. Add Mini Games
Japan has been proud of its game culture. Japanese game developers have created so many high-quality games which became popular all over the world, such as the Final Fantasy series, the Metal Gear Solid series. However, it was not only these 3D super high-quality games that have proven popular in Japan. Small, easy-to-play games, especially on mobile phones have greatly been successful as well. Mobagei(モバゲー), the No.1 mobile mini-game site in Japan with over 10 million users, offers more than 100 mobile games and keeps attracting more and more users. Mixi also integrated Picomiku(mini-game applications) into its user profile pages. Japanese people, especially those who live in urban cities like Tokyo, often use public transportation like buses and trains, with a mobile phone in one hand to kill time by playing these mini-games.
Above are 3 main things. Here I have one more interesting bonus suggestion, although I am not sure if it will work.
4. Add Infrared Data Exchange Function
Almost every single mobile phone in Japan has an infrared data exchange function, and many young people, when they meet someone for the first time, exchange their e-mail addresses and phone number using this infrared function, instead of swapping their business cards as their parents used to do. It takes less than 30 seconds and is so convenient that sometimes we forget to remember the person’s name because we rely too much on this function. So, if we could exchange our Facebook accounts using this infrared function, not just our e-mail addresses and phone numbers, it would be much much easier for us to make new friend connections, and also for Facebook to spread virally and quickly in Japan. I’m not sure if this will work, but it’s worth thinking.
These are the 3(+1) tips which I think Facebook should consider about from a young avid user’s perspective. Internet is cultural, and just because they are successful in the US and other places doesn’t mean they can also succeed in Japan. I do hope more and more people can correctly understand the Japanese culture and create interesting, useful services in Japan.